Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This Week's Review: Plum, Where Devices and Ideals Go Hand in Hand

Posted By on Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 9:09 AM

click to enlarge Squid with smoked lentil puree at Plum. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Squid with smoked lentil puree at Plum.


I had a funny little off-the-record exchange with Daniel Patterson a few weeks ago, in which I asked him if he wanted to update his 2005 essay on how straightjacket California cuisine had become. His response was, essentially, that he'd said all he'd cared to back then. If I wanted to know what he thought of California cuisine, I should eat his food.

So I did.

Which is how this week's review

came about. Actually, Patterson's food at Plum is belonging more and

more to the chef he brought on board in December: Charlie Parker is a

talented Manresa vet whose food at Cellar Door Cafe was rumored to be so

good San Franciscans I knew were taking trips to Santa Cruz just to eat

it (and you know how much energy it takes to get a San Franciscan to

leave the city...). The moment I heard Parker was coming north, I

postponed my plans to review Plum. And while the two chef share similar

approaches to food ― I'll post an interview with Parker in a few hours

― during my first meal there, I could sense a lingering bit of

disconnect between the two men's styles. Which was completely resolved

by the time of my last, exquisite meal.

Patterson was right: Plum

is effortlessly forward-thinking, with no disconnect between its ideals

and its creativity. The only seafood on the menu, for example? Local

sardines and squid. All of the vegetables came from local farms. In

fact, Plum is so vegetable-friendly that I felt comfortable sharing a

four-course meal with a strict-veg friend without feeling like I was

exiling her from half the dishes. Normally I hate sitting at the

counter, but given the fact that my own culinary training ended before

the immersion circulator went mainstream, it felt like a master lesson

to watch the chefs integrate device-driven cooking without making it the

centerpiece of each dish.

One last thing: Lara Hata's slideshow of Plum is 100 percent porntastic.

Follow us on Twitter @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.